Residential Waste Collection Research and Recommendation Summary

The City of Lakewood has an open subscription system for residential curbside trash collection. This system allows any waste hauler to operate in the City after completing a short license application and paying a $50 annual fee. Homeowners or home owner associations in Lakewood may contract for service with any licensed hauler. This open subscription system enables numerous private businesses to compete to provide service in Lakewood, empowers residents to negotiate for services and rates on their own, and minimizes the costs and administrative burden for the City.

The open subscription system fulfills the basic community need of removing waste from residential properties, however it does not address how waste is collected, transported, deposited or processed. As a result, a wide range of concerns related to public health, household costs, level of service, neighborhood nuisance, environmental pollution, infrastructure, and other concerns have been raised by community members, staff and City leaders over the past 30 or more years.
In addition to these long-standing concerns, the 2015 Lakewood Sustainability Plan established a variety of community goals and targets that are impacted by the current open subscription residential waste collection system. These include targets for diverting materials away from landfills, improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The attached 2018 Lakewood Residential Trash Collection Report is a compilation of findings from three years of staff research and community outreach efforts conducted to gain an in-depth understanding of the complex issues and trade-offs associated with residential curbside trash collection. The report includes detailed analysis of the current system, goals for improving the system, evaluations of potential policy requirements, and staff recommendations for next steps. Staff is looking for feedback and direction from City Council in order to design a more refined residential curbside waste collection program proposal.

In 2015, City Council approved Lakewood’s first communitywide Sustainability Plan as a guide for ensuring the long-term social, environmental, and economic vitality of the Lakewood community. The Sustainability Plan was developed through a multi-year community engagement process. The process was anchored by subject specific working groups comprised of resident volunteers, industry experts, business and institutional stakeholders, and staff. These workgroups established the Plan’s goals, targets, and implementation strategies based on scientific data, best practices, similar city benchmarks, and Lakewood specific community input.
The Plan’s goals related to residential waste hauling received significant attention throughout the Plan’s development and adoption process. City Council prioritized Strategy ZW2-A (Residential Curbside Recycling and Waste Diversion) in the plan due to:

1. The significant level of concern expressed by residents related to curbside collection of trash and recycling.
2. The ability of polices related to recycling and waste diversion to significantly impact greenhouse gas emissions, ecosystem health, public health, and the financial well-being of Lakewood residents.

Implementation of the strategy involves an evaluation of the existing residential waste system in order to develop a set of potential program and/or policy recommendations to City Council. In 2016, as a first step, the Sustainability Division conducted a statistically-significant survey to understand Lakewood’s current residential waste system. The results of that survey were presented to City Council on April 3, 2017, along with additional research on trash truck traffic counts and data collected from the licensing requirement put in place to identify which companies were operating in the City of Lakewood. At the conclusion of the presentation staff committed to:

 Conducting additional research into waste hauling systems and policies
 Assessing different collection models in other Colorado communities
 Conducting robust community engagement to understand the issues related to residential curbside waste collection
 Reporting findings to City Council along with a range of potential regulatory pathways for consideration

Following through on these commitments, staff has conducted extensive research into residential curbside trash collection systems and conducted a multi-platform and inclusive community outreach effort utilizing an interactive project website, mobile kiosks, in-person interviews, social media, print media and engagement at events, meetings, and community facilities.


Existing issues associated with collection services include:

  • Household Issues
    o Pricing concerns (inconsistent pricing, high overall prices, unmetered pricing, high cost of recycling, etc.)
    o Gaps in available services (large item pickup, yard waste collection)
    o City government costs to provide services not included by waste haulers
    o Customer Service (accountability, responsiveness, rate fluctuations)
    o Choice among haulers (concern about loss of choice)
  • Neighborhood issues
    o Noise (truck traffic and behavior)
    o Public health and safety (air quality, driver behaviors)
    o Aesthetics (container types and conditions, number of days with trash at curb)
  • Hauler/Business Issues
    o Business and Market Competition (small business buyouts, support for free market)
    o Jobs (concern over job loss, opportunity to create jobs from increased recycling and composting)
  • Environmental Issues
    o Landfill diversion (extremely low diversion rates)
    o Vehicle emissions and air quality
    o Greenhouse Gas emissions (truck emission, waste decomposition/processing emissions)
  • City Government Issues
    o Program administration (existing vs. potential costs and resource requirements)
    o Infrastructure impacts (street and property damage)
    o Service capacity (costs of additional services, limited capacity of existing services/sites)

Goals for System Improvement

The ideal residential trash collection system should be:

  • Neighborhood-friendly: A minimal number of trucks collect neighborhood trash on only
    one or two days of the week. This creates a quieter, safer, and cleaner neighborhood.
    Affordable: Residents pay similar collection fees to other communities in the region,
    freeing up resources for other household costs.
     Fair & equitable: Residents pay according to their usage, not according to their
     Business-friendly: Small businesses are able to compete with larger companies and
    continue contributing to the local economy.
     Customizable: Residents can choose from add-on services like large-item pickup, food
    and yard compost pickup, and container sizes to fit their household needs
     Transparent & accountable: Residents understand their collection fees and receive
    quality customer service.
     Safe: Residents feel safe walking in their neighborhoods even on collection days.
     Environmentally-friendly: Cleaner and fewer trucks improve air quality. Recycling and
    other waste diversion resources are accessible, enabling the community to meet its
    sustainability goals.
     Minimally burdensome: City administration and costs are minimized.
     Supportive of choice: A degree of choice is maintained for residents to customize their
    service options and feel confident that Lakewood is receiving the best the industry has to
    Sections 7.1 and 7.2 of the 2019 Residential Trash Collection report provide detailed analysis of
    potential system improvements and optional implementation pathways. Section 8 of the Report provides
    an additional discussion of trade-offs and important considerations along with a preliminary policy
    Please refer to the 2019 Residential Trash Collection Report for detailed information on potential
    budgetary impacts, policy alternatives, and community outreach efforts.
    Staff is requesting feedback and direction from City Council in order to design a more refined residential
    curbside waste collection program proposal (or set of program options) containing policies that reflect
    Council’s primary concerns and priorities.
    ATTACHMENTS: 2019 Lakewood Residential Trash Collection Report
    REVIEWED BY: Kathleen E. Hodgson, City Manager
    Benjamin B. Goldstein, Deputy City Manager
    Timothy P. Cox, City Attorney